|September 4, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 15 • Oakland, CA|
College Information Guide
Saint Mary's students live and learn in community
Living and learning communities may appear to be in vogue on colleges and universities across the country. At Saint Mary's College, living and learning communities have been thriving for more than a decade.
A tight-knit group of student leaders explored the possibility of living as a community of faith and service, following the tradition of the Christian Brothers, founders of the college.
A nonresidential community of faith and service began in 2005-06. The residence hall component began a year later, when the college's second-year students were offered the opportunity to live in the Lasallian community, named for John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the Christian Brothers.
The community was nurtured by Pamela Thomas, of the Mission and Ministry center, McClelland said.
The students lived in suites in a college residence hall, gathering on Monday nights for community dinners and meetings. They participated in service projects and faith activities together.
It was intended as a one-year program, but after a year, the students were reluctant to give up their way of life.
The Santiago community, for third and fourth year students, was born. The community is named in memory of Christian Brother James Alfred "Santiago" Miller, an American who taught in Central America. He was shot and killed in Guatemala in 1982.
Students who choose to live in both the Lasallian and Santiago communities are committed to service.
Those in the Lasallian community in their second year of college, learn about the life of Jean Baptiste de la Salle and what it means to live Lasallian.
At Santiago, community members focus on Catholic social teachings.
This year, the college is planning to emphasize service in four areas: the Alameda Point Collaborative in Alameda; Oakland's Fruitvale District; the Monument Corridor in Concord; and Moraga, right in the college's own backyard.
The Lasallian community will be tutoring at De La Salle Academy, a middle school for low-income boys, in Concord; and volunteering at the Monument Crisis Center.
The Santiago community will work with the Alameda Point Collaborative and with the Gael Food Pantry, an on-campus service for Saint Mary's College students.
"We do service," McClelland said. The students, she said, "are not getting paid for it, not doing it for credit."
"We want to explore what it means to serve another human," McClelland said.
What have the college leaders learned from the students after more than a decade?
"They're seeking community," she said. "Time and time again, the community piece is the piece they're seeking."
What's special about the communities echoes what's special about the Brothers.
"Their principal vow is association with the educational mission," McClelland said. To live this way, she said, is transformative.
McClelland has personal experience, having lived in a Lasallian community after her graduation from college 30 years ago.
The communities seek to model for college students the Brothers' experience of the "benefits and challenges of living in community."
From there, she said, the question becomes, "What does that say about your spiritual life and relationship with God?"
The students will take part in liturgies during the school year. "Not all are Catholic," she said, "not all are Christian."
Life in intentional community and service were among the drawing points for Ericka Lacsamana, a fourth-year student at Saint Mary's College, who is entering her third year in a living and learning community.
"You join with the intention of living in community," Lacsamana said. Living and learning communities have enhanced her college experience, she said. "I found my support system and my friends."
The Santiago community has grown from 40 students to 62, she said.
"You get out what you put in," she said. "If you put in effort, you get a lot of it back."
The communications major, with a music minor, also embodies one of the values McClelland sees in the program.
She sees the communities as a place where students "cultivate spiritual practices" and consider "what it will look like beyond Saint Mary's College."
Lacsamana has a plan. "AmeriCorps," she said, "and work my way to the Peace Corps."
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